Kindergarten wait lists grow as enrolment rises in Victoria

It's nearly eight months before school starts, but some parents of next year's kindergarten class are worried about getting a place for their children.

No guarantee of a place in preferred French or English school

The wait list for French immersion kindergarten starting in September already has 142 names on it, compared to just 41 last year, says Greater Victoria School District superintendent Piet Langstraat. (CBC)

Nearly eight months before the start of a new school year, parents in B.C.'s capital region are concerned that their children won't have a kindergarten class to go to. 

Many who tried to register their kids this month for French immersion say demand for student spaces is outstripping supply. English-language parents say they're similarly concerned, especially because registration is set to begin on Monday. .

"As a new kindergarten parent I am super shocked at the limited space, knowing there will be kids turned away," parent Jamie Owens posted to Facebook.

"I feel quite lucky my son got into the French lottery, but I can't help but feel frustration and outrage at this system."

High demand for French immersion

The Greater Victoria School District says enrolment is growing after years of decline that resulted in the closure of eight schools in the district.

The problem is worsened given how participation in French immersion in the district is about 20 per cent of the student population, compared to just 6.4 per cent in the rest of Canada.

"Over the past couple of years we've seen 450 more students join our district," district superintendent Piet Langstraat told On the Island host Gregor Craigie. 

"That puts pressure on all of our schools and certainly on our French Immersion programs."

Piet Langstraat says parents are split between supporting enrolment priority for students in the school catchment area, or keeping siblings together. (CHEK News)

He said the waiting list for French immersion currently sits at 142 names, but says that number could change.

"Plans change and between now and September, families move, they change their mind about French immersion and enter the English program," he said.

Langstraat added that the district would theoretically have enough spaces for all French immersion kindergarten students, but not necessarily at their school of choice. 

Competition for English spaces

Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that students in the English stream will get into their first choice of school either.

"When I speak with parents around the district, I certainly receive different perspectives," Langstraat said. "Some believe keeping siblings together is the highest priority and others believe it is access to your neighbourhood school."

Langstraat said because of the rising enrolment the district can't always accommodate both priorities.

He said a student enrolment committee is exploring whether registration priority should be given according to catchment or school of choice.

Line up early

Parents in the School District 61 will also be surveyed soon on the issue.

Langstraat offered advice for parents hoping to win a spot for their child when English kindergarten registration starts Monday at 8 a.m. PT. "We actually accept registrations in the order that they come in," he said.

"If they really want to get their children into a specific school they want to get there early."

With files from CBC Radio One On the Island.